Several of my poems have found homes in The Frogmore Papers, most recently in the Autumn 2022 issue which happens to be the 100th issue and is cause for celebration. Congratulations to chief editor Jeremy Page! The cover is wonderful too, designed by Neil Gower.
The Frogmore Press started 39 years ago. In the early years it seems to have been published quarterly; now it appears bi-annually.
I’m enjoying reading some fabulous poems by poets whose names are known to me and others whose work I’m reading for the first time. The first poem in the anthology is by Poet Laureate Simon Armitage – a poignant poem about past and present and which includes walking, for which he is famous.
My poem, ‘Across the Lake’, appears in the anthology after being shortlisted for this year’s Frogmore Poetry prize. It’s a poem that spreads informally across the page. I enjoyed the freedom of writing it and creating a sense of the expanse of water the two swimmers are crossing. What a poem looks like is probably as important to me as how it sounds.
My ‘Night Zoo’ short story collection was officially launched at Gullivers Bookshop on the first Wednesday evening in August! Thank you, Gullivers! The place was crowded and buzzing so it was great fun. As well as my reading of the beginning of the story, ‘Great Barrier Reef’, there was also a q and a session, eg see below!
q: ‘Which is your favourite story?’
a: As with children, I don’t have a favourite – they are all equally special! However, I worked longest on ‘Great Barrier Reef’ as there were some sturutural issues to deal with and the early drafts were complicated and packed in enough for a novel so I had to pare things down! All the elements of the story remained but some sank more to the background and others became more focused.
q: Are the stories separate or do they link?
a: The stories are varied and individual and can be read as stand-alones. But there also links, for example – I wrote them all so they have that in common! A few characters reappear in other stories although the reader may not notice that (my secret)! The stories are linked by my concerns – the environment and climage change, respect for the differences among and between people, social justice, parents and children, kindness. Many other issues … too many to list here.
There are so many well-known and not-so-well-known love poems that I return to. Today I’m thinking about ‘love’ in its different forms. One of my first published poems is very short. I’d probably write it rather differently today, 20 years on, but I’m still fond of the poem, its optimism, and its sense of closeness between humans and nature.
In the early morning a little face with a long neck appears at the window, a little questioning face. Two capable paws rest on the sill and two surprising eyes look through the window at us in bed, drinking tea, in our boat under the willow in the early morning on the river.
Today, I’m celebrating everything good about poetry!
I am grateful to all the poets whose poems have sustained and delighted me over the years.
I am grateful to all the poets who have offered friendship, inspiration and affirmation, encouraging me to keep going with my writing. Thank you!
Writing can be a lonely journey, at times, but it seems to me that the journey is happier and more fulfilling if we support each other.
On January 1st 2020, poet John McCullough tweeted a lovely message about my poem, ‘January’, that he had previously selected for the Frogmore Prize. He said: ‘I posted a while back about the importance of learning how to use silence in poetry as well as sound. I think this poem … is a great example. There’s so much quietly going on in the stanza breaks, the line breaks and that white silence at the end.’
Thank you, John! Your appreciation of my poem was a lovely gift, helping to inspire confidence. Later in 2020 my short poetry collection ‘January’ was published by Maytree Press. Thank you, Maytree!
I’m honoured to be included in the forthcoming Black Spring Press collection: ‘The Best New British and Irish Poets 2019-2021’ with my poem, ‘Dartmoor Snow’. Can’t wait to read the other 99 poems in the book! It’s due out in June and you can pre-order a copy now.
The High Window is a poetry ezine I always enjoy reading. The presentation is brilliant, the poems very well-chosen and arranged and the short biogs of poets fascinating. The latest issue starts with a vivid spring illustration. I’m delighted to have my poems, ‘Family in the Museum’ and ‘Little White Skating Boots’ appearing in this Spring 2021 First Instalment. It’s great to see my work alongside that of other excellent and well-known poets. Today, poems that chime particularly with my mood are ‘Knitting’ and ‘Visitor’ by Lorraine Carey and Colin Pink’s sequence of short poems on bereavement. Also, I really like the poems on riding pillion on a motorbike by Fiona Sinclair. THW is a super magazine and free to read!
I recently discovered London Grip and I’m now enjoying the writing, poetry and reviews published in this magazine. Recently, poet Emma Storr wrote a detailed review of my collection, ‘January’, finishing with:
‘January is a varied, accessible collection of poems filled with understated emotions from a writer who is practised and confident in handling the profound with a light touch.’
Thank you, Emma, for reading and commenting so closely on my poetry. It is great to have readers – as a writer I think it’s necessary! – and fascinating to discover the various different things each reader finds meaningful and enjoyable in the writing.
Emma Storr’s pamphlet, ‘Heart Murmur’, published by Calder Valley Poetry is an accessible and compelling collection that draws on her experiences as a GP and as a patient.
It’s chilly, wet mid-January. Unusually, I haven’t been outside today, except to get a signal for my mobile so I can have a quick chat with my daughter.
‘But cold provides us with delightful opportunities to luxuriate in that feeling Scandinavians call hygge,’ writes Annie Fisher in her Sphinx review of my collection, ‘January’. Annie continues:’ In ‘Ice Hotel’ we find a place:
where everything is carved from ice but even so is welcoming and cosy. […] You can sleigh right up to the door; they serve hot meals, mulled wine
So settle down by the fire and enjoy this lovely collection. Hot chocolate anyone? Brandy? Spicy punch?’
Thank you, Annie! Good advice.
Annie’s own pamphlet, ‘The Deal’ published by Happenstance in 2020 is one of my favourite recent poetry collections. I love the humour, the light touch, and the vivid stories and characters. Today, I’m choosing to read, ‘The Orange Lobster and the Hens’, in which Donald Trump, portrayed as a lobster suddenly freed from the poet’s book, is set upon and demolished by a kitten-heel-wearing hen party! What a solution.
I’ve been very fortunate to have interest in my writing from poet John McCullough who has read and reviewed my collection, ‘January’. His thoughts are on the Maytree website and also here:
“Sarah Barr writes subtle poems that probe the edges of uncertainties, the details of objects and landscapes gradually revealing her speakers’ unease. The disjunctions in the title piece evoke the sudden leaps of a mind actively thinking, the white spaces between stanzas inviting us to imagine what’s going on beneath the clipped surface of the language. Elsewhere, simple phrasing holds carefully nuanced images: the menace of cracking ice, a long-married couple surrounded by ‘masks / and stiff-limbed, velvet-dressed dolls.’ The writing carries on unfolding inside the reader long after their eyes have left the page.”